last chain on billieAgainst the backdrop of a glittering but brutal circus world, Carol Bradley’s Last Chain on Billie charts the history of elephants in America, the inspiring story of the Elephant Sanctuary and the spellbinding tale of a resilient elephant who defied the system even as she struggled to conquer her past, who never lost sight of the life she was meant to have.

Left in the wild, Billie the elephant would have spent her days surrounded by family, free to wander the jungles of Asia. Instead, traders captured her as a baby and shipped her to America, where she learned to carry humans, stand on a tub and balance on one leg – the full repertoire of elephant tricks. For decades, Billie crisscrossed the country, dazzling audiences as she performed breathtaking stunts. But behind the scenes she lived a life of misery: traveling in trucks, chained for hours on end, barely able to move, giving eight-minute performances under harsh lights and to the sounds of blaring music. And worse.

Finally, she got a lucky break. As part of the largest elephant rescue in American history, Billie wound up at a sanctuary for performing elephants in Tennessee, able once more to roam through open meadows and share her days with a herd. She would never be beaten again. But, overcome with anxiety, she withdrew from the rest of the elephants and refused to let anyone remove a chain still clamped around her leg. Her caregivers began to wonder if Billie could ever escape her emotional wounds.

The compelling story of Billie’s battle to reclaim her old self is a testament to the intelligence, emotional complexity and remarkable strength of all elephants, captive or free. (description from publisher)

I’m amazed how many folks haven’t read this yet. I guarantee you will not be anything but fascinated and thoroughly entertained by Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants.

This story is about young Jacob’s interlude with the circus during the Depression and Prohibition. Fascinating are the circus days of old – truly a culture in and of itself. Entertaining are the diverse characters – from ringmasters and those in the side shows to the roustabouts and the star of the circus – Rosie the elephant. The story is reminisced by Jacob in his elder years. Gruen’s descriptions and story developments are fantastic. You can feel Jacob’s passion in youth and fearful frustration in old age. There is romance and murder; tragedy and hope. Best of all, it has a great ending.

Everyone has a dream, even an elephant.

Hannah has been living at a tiny, second-rate zoo in Washington state since she was brought there when she was two years old. She has not seen another elephant in 40 years. And although she has received kind and loving care from her devoted zookeeper Sam, the poor conditions of the zoo is seriously affecting her health. But the arrival of Neva, a new assistant elephant keeper, begins to shake things up. Neva knows of an elephant sanctuary in California that might be able to take in Hannah, but they need to find a way to transport her, pay for her maintenance and, hardest of all, convince the hard-hearted zoo director – who sees the elephant only as a source of revenue – that moving Hannah is the right thing to do.

Fun and inspiring Hannah’s Dream will keep you on the edge of your seat as Hannah’s friends fight the odds with a little help from a legacy from the past.

Because dreams can come true. Even an elephants.